One in four oyster ‘fines’ are incorrect

28 02 2011

Just a short blog to highlight my story in the story in the Standard today.

The key point for me is that one in four people who fail to swipe in or out properly on the Tube, railways, DLR or London Overground are given a penalty of a maximum daily fare but are then given it back because it was an error.

The system either automatically gives it back to them  or the customer is forced to complain and request a refund.

This raises a lot of questions about Oyster and whether the system is getting overstretched by the extension to the railways and the complicated fares that can bring forward.

TfL say they are improving the situation and demanding that rail companies put in gates at all stations to seal up the system, but nevertheless one in four fines being mistakes is a big issue and affects at least 3.6 million Londoners every year.


Pressure on Boris to give the gift of free travel to Tube sufferers

10 02 2011

At this morning’s budget debate at City Hall Boris Johnson was pressed again on the poor reliability on many Tube lines in recent months and weeks, and he again said he was “frustrated” about it all but claimed it was improving.

Also interestingly he did not deny blasting Peter Hendy on the phone last week because it had all gone to pot again.

In particular, there was a plea to improve life for the long-suffering people who have been stuck using the Jubilee Line  with all its delays and closures.

As a result of years of misery there, I know that he is currently being put under pressure to give them a day of free travel to recognise the disruption they have suffered.

Opposition politicians at City Hall say travellers deserve the gift because the line’s signalling upgrade is 18-months late and its stations have closed on more than 100 weekends since 2007.

They have asked that the Mayor repeat what happened on the East London Line’s opening day last year, where thousands enjoyed free travel along the route, or hand out free travelcards to commuters at Jubilee Line stations.

Mr Johnson says he wants to reward people because of the “highly disruptive” delays and that Transport for London is considering what to do when the Jubilee Line’s upgrade is completed this Spring.

But he has also admitted that he considers a day of free travel would probably be too expensive in the current financial climate.

Leader of City Hall’s Liberal Democrats Caroline Pidgeon insists that Boris Johnson should try to find the cash to recognise how much communities along the Jubilee Line have suffered.

“Given the immense disruption Jubilee Line passengers have suffered the Mayor must properly thank them for putting up with so much,” she told me.

“Regular users of the Jubilee Line deserve a few days free travel, but if the Mayor won’t fund this then he needs to come up with alternative proposals to celebrate the line operating properly again and to thank passengers for their patience.”

A series of delays and problems means the improvements on the Jubilee Line will finish 18 months later than promised this April-ish.

To speed the process Boris Johnson and London Underground stepped in last year to buy Tube Lines, who they blamed for the delays, at a cost of more than £300 million.

Because of the lessons learned from the disruption on the Jubilee Line, Tube bosses have decided to upgrade the Northern Line while imposing a ban on weekend and early evening closures.

“Both London Underground (LU) and I fully appreciate that Tube Lines’ lengthy programme to upgrade the Jubilee line has been highly disruptive to London,” Mr Johnson said in a new written response.

“In recognition of that, LU is investigating the most appropriate way to mark the completion of this major piece of work. Of course, the real benefit to users of the line will come in the form of more frequent trains, faster journeys and increased capacity that the upgrade will eventually deliver.

“Bearing in mind the cost incurred by LU in resolving the serious failings in the Tube Lines approach and the importance of prioritising the investment needed for the vital upgrade of the Tube, my initial reaction is that I could not justify such a costly concession.

“The opening of the East London line was slightly different in that it offered TfL the chance to attract new customers to what was effectively a brand new railway, showcasing the new stations, reopened stations and connections that can now be made to new areas of east London.”

Boris admits his attitude may have caused strikes.

9 02 2011

For the first time the Mayor has admitted that his hardline approach to the Tube unions has  resulted in more strikes crippling the network.

But he still insists that he will not to be “swayed” by the demands of union bosses and will stick to his plans for reform of Transport for London.

Londoners have suffered 21 Tube strikes since he was elected Mayor in 2008, compared with 17 during Ken Livingstone’s eight years in office.

Despite the marked difference, Mr Johnson also launched a blistering attack on his Labour predecessor’s record on industrial relations, accusing him of giving in to the “unsustainable and spurious” demands of union bosses over working conditions.

And he stepped up his criticisms of the Tube unions, claiming that their numerous “utterly pointless” strikes had nothing to do with the welfare of their members and had “achieved nothing.”

It comes after the Mayor wrote to bosses at Aslef, the train drivers union, to offer face-to-face talks in an ongoing dispute over working conditions, but was turned down.

In a written answer to the London Assembly, he added: “My predecessor apparently took the view that it was expedient, in response to their threats of strike action, to submit to the unsustainable and often spurious demands of the union leaderships.

“I take a different view, which is that we should not be swayed from well thought through plans or properly taken decisions simply because some union leaders seek to obstruct them.

“This may have led to more strikes, but they have been utterly pointless, have achieved nothing, and in many cases have had little or no impact on services.”

Last year thousands of commuters were forced to work from home or find alternative routes on several occasions as large sections of the Tube were shut down by 24-hour strikes.

The unions – the RMT as well as Aslef – have threatened more to come in the ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

Meanwhile, firefighters had been in a five-year dispute with management over Brigade demands for staff to work longer day shifts, which almost led to a controversial strike on last year’s Bonfire Night.

Opposition politicians have rounded on the Mayor, who pledged to initiate a no-strike deal when he was elected to City Hall, for his attack on the unions.

A spokesman for Mr Livingstone told me: “Boris Johnson himself now concedes that there have been more strikes under him in just three years than in the entire period that Ken Livingstone was responsible for the Tube, whilst at the same time fares are rising and delays and disruption continue.

”The consequence for Londoners of that failure to get a grip of industrial relations on the tube is more disruption for the travelling public.”

Christ on a bike.

10 12 2010

Merry Christmas from the Mayor of London. The Three Kings on Boris Bikes riding to the stable to hand gifts to the baby Jesus.

The card, designed by 10-year-old Ellie Feldman, was unveiled today and Boris Johnson went to meet her at her school and speak to pupils during the school assembly.

The card will be sent to individuals and organisations across the capital by the Mayor.

Boris said: “This tremendously fun festive card caught my eye immediately – what an ingenious idea to place the Three Wise Men on our magnificent hire bikes! It’s guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face and I’d like to thank the creative youngster who designed it for me.”

But is this actually a protest picture from our Ellie? Maybe she decided it was better for the three kings to get on bikes because nobody can rely on the tube or trains at the moment.

Bonkers number of dangerous crossings.

3 12 2010

Interesting safety news from City Hall – hundreds of crossings are dangerous.

In fact, one in ten of London’s pedestrian crossings fail to meet Government safety guidelines designed to ensure the public can cross easily and safely, it has been revealed.

Boris Johnson has been accused of neglect because more than 400 do not have adequate facilities for the blind or do not give people enough time to get across the road.

The Department for Transport set rules in 2005 demanding that all crossings fit very specific criteria to protect the public from injury.

These guidelines state disabled users should have a clear noise during the safe crossing period or a moving part, usually fixed below the box with the request button, which spins when there is a green man.

They also insist that the walking speed for a pedestrian is 1.2 metres a second and this should be combined mathematically with the width of every individual crossing to ensure the crossing time is correct and therefore safe.

But the Mayor admits that they are still several years away from achieving this at all sites in the capital.

Politicians have branded the situation a disgrace and called on him and TfL to do more to ensure that all crossings are up to scratch as soon as possible.

Caroline Pidgeon AM , leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group said: “There figures powerfully demonstrate the low priority given to pedestrians, and especially disabled pedestrians, by the Mayor and Transport for London.

“It is utterly shameful that so many pedestrian crossings in London fall so far short of important safety guidance.

“He must ensure that each and every pedestrian crossing in London meets vital safety standards.”

According to new City Hall figures there are 4970 pedestrian crossings in the capital but 431 are without satisfactory help for the blind while 115 of these are also without sufficient crossing times.

The 115 without all these facilities are dotted all over London, including ones close to Euston and Victoria stations as well as others on busy routes like the North Circular.

Boris Johnson says the speed of upgrade of those crossings is dependent on levels of funding handed to Transport for London by the Government, but he is aiming for between 50 and 75 improvements per year.

“All traffic signals in London are compliant with the national guidance current at the time of their installation,” he said.

“There are 115 sites across the capital that are not fitted with either tactile cones or audible signals and need to be upgraded to take account of latest national guidance.

“It is not possible to extend the ‘clearance’ period at existing signals without a total replacement of the control equipment.  The 115 sites will be upgraded to take account of latest guidance and incorporate either tactile cones and/or audible signals as part of TfL’s rolling modernisation programme.

“Audible and tactile signals are incorporated into pedestrian crossing facilities as and when these sites are modernised by TfL and a further 50 will be upgraded this year.”

Credit cards instead of Oyster and more.

2 12 2010

My story on this has been cut back, just like Southeastern’s service, because of the weather chaos chaos chaos, but it is still a good one.

Here it is in the Standard:

Anyway, apart from the topline, all this also links  in with the industrial action we are all dealing with.

Because the Mayor also says that new improved ticket machines will be rolled out in London’s stations from 2011, including ones that will vend oyster cards and a wider range of tickets.

Less need for staff and ticket offices you see.

“Further updates from early 2011 onwards will provide increased functionality on London Underground’s ‘Advanced Fare Machines’ (AFMs), allowing staff to assist customers with a range of Oyster card services that can currently only be provided at a ticket office,” he said.

“London Underground is also planning to enable the vending of Oyster cards from AFMs across the network starting in mid-2011.

“In late 2011, LU will install 40 new AFMs at stations where demand dictates.”

These changes mean Transport for London is closer to getting rid of cash tickets, which they believe will benefit the travelling public with lower costs.

But critics say that it proves that most ticket offices on the Tube network are doomed, a dispute which has caused disruptive strikes in London over recent months.

The Mayor is proposing that opening hours be cut at nine out of ten ticket offices as staff would be better used helping travellers at gates or on platforms.

A 24-hour strike – the fourth – went ahead on Sunday, in protest over 800 job cuts to station staff.

The unions have refused to rule out further stoppages, in fact they want bigger ones.

London Assembly Liberal Democrat Leader Caroline Pidgeon says that there will be a gap in service as ticket offices have opening hours cut and new technology is rolled out.

“The slow and limited changes to self-service ticket machines reveal just how misguided it is for the Mayor to immediately slash the opening hours at 90% of ticket offices across London,” she said.

“There are many  people whose specific needs are not served by ticket machines.  Moreover even when the upgrades are finally completed the ticket machines will continue to have many deficiencies, such as not being able to provide extensions to people who have a season ticket.

“Advances in ticket technology are of course welcome, yet it is clear that the savage reduction in ticket office opening hours will take place long before the improvements have been rolled out.”

Smelly boys.

22 11 2010

If we ever wanted proof that boys are filthy, sweaty creatures and girls smell of  sweet Spring flowers  – take a look at my story in today’s Standard.

Only a quarter of the people signed up for the Boris bike hire scheme are women, and TfL think it is because of safety concerns and a lack of public changing/washing facilities.

Remember ladies you could always use a sink in the public loos of some dingy railway station, boys do.


By Martin Robinson

The cost of running the annual New Year’s Eve party on the banks of the Thames has been forced up because of safety concerns and clear-up costs.

City Hall says it will have to find an extra £140,000 to fully fund the 2010 event and its fireworks display, costing taxpayers £1.8 million this year.

Around 250,000 people descend on central London to see in the New Year and more security staff will be brought in to reduce overcrowding and ensure people get easily and safely home afterwards.

Boris Johnson says that there will be improved management of the hordes of revellers who will attend on December 31 this year.

The Mayor is spending more on security at official viewing areas along the Thames to ensure that they do not exceed their capacity.

Councils who clear up the mess left by the visitors are also expected to ask for more money to play their part on December 31 into January 1.

Extra money will also be spent on an event website, providing detailed information for those planning to attend, and 150,000 viewing area maps for distribution on the day.

“Due to the popularity of the event, a significant proportion of the event budget is spent on crowd management measures to ensure that access to viewing areas is controlled to ensure that safe capacity is not exceeded,” new City Hall documents have revealed.

“A year on year uplift in some costs and increased local authority charges, particularly for post event cleansing and other services provided by London boroughs have resulted in costs increasing from the 2009 event by £137,869.”

The event has been staged by the Authority since 2003, and has designated viewing areas between Lambeth and Blackfriars bridges, with the fireworks and light show centred around Big Ben and the London Eye.

But it has proved so popular that the zone could be extended further east to Southwark Bridge this year.

Of the total £1.8 million cost, £1.5 million will be paid for by the London Development Agency with the rest coming from City Hall funds.